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Lord’s: Jul 17, 2014
By Arunabha Sengupta
Two starts and two big wickets. The England bowlers improved their length, pitched the ball up, and twice, immediately after the lunch break and the other soon after drinks interval, they produced a couple of brilliant deliveries that blasted two big holes in the Indian line-up. With the first they stalled the Indian progress. With the second they made the decisive inroad, and left the rest of the batting in ruins.
James Anderson started proceedings after lunch, this time changing over to the Nursery End. The balls darted about, but the length continued to be towards the shorter side. When he pitched too full, Cheteshwar Pujara drove him down the hill for two.
From the Pavilion End ran in Stuart Broad, swinging much and often, and once again wasting them way outside the off. Kohli drove him down the ground for four in front of the Warner Stand. Broad pitched short in retaliation and it flew away over a leaping Matt Prior’s outstretched hands for four byes. There was still pace, bounce and movement aplenty in the wicket.
The first blow was struck in the fifth over after lunch. Kohli, looking in excellent touch, played at one from Anderson that angled into the off-stump and moved away. Matt Prior, having dropped two in the morning, made no mistake this time as he held it low to his right. Another promising Kohli innings was nipped in the bud. The biggest name in the Indian batting line up would do well to think long and hard about the batting woes in the series so far. Not only did the dismissal carry the dangers of exposing the rather suspect lower middle order to the greenish wicket, it also resulted in damming in the fluidity that had touched the Indian innings.
When Broad bowled, Ben Stokes stood at a curious position, not quite point, far deep for gully. The reasons were uncertain, but Alastair Cook’s experiments with innovative field position continued. Runs came infrequently, and in nudges.
Pujara’s intense vigil had got him 15 from92 balls till then. Ben Stokes replaced Anderson and he squeezed a boundary to third man. Rahane got into his groove with a nicely timed square drive off Broad. It was followed by a delectable on drive in the same over to bring up the hundred of the innings.
Liam Plunkett replaced Broad at the Pavilion end and Pujara drove him through the covers, the position perfect and the ball played as late as possible. It was correct, compact and comforting batting from both ends. The two young men were watchful, solid and, when there were balls to hit, classy. Plunkett and Stokes looked less than threatening. As the sun beat down, Lord’s bathed in sunshine, the heat took toll and bowling speeds took a hit. The first hour ended with India on 109 for three, Pujara patient, biding his time, on 24 from 112 balls. Rahane on 11. The innings was still in balance, but it was just about to go for a major shift.
After the interval, Stokes ran in with his flaming red head bright under the sun. Pujara dispatched him sweetly through midwicket for four. Two balls later, the second big blow exposed the brittle Indian lower middle order. It was full and straight, not swinging for a change, breached the defence of the Indian No 3 and crashed into the top of middle stump. All the stoical restraint had come to nought. Pujara’s 28 had been scored over 117 balls.
MS Dhoni was greeted with four slips and a gully. He went through his initial jittery moments, not really at ease against the moving ball. Broad was put on immediately, generating a nice shape, creating plenty of problems for the Indian captain.
And at this juncture Moeen Ali was introduced into the attack — the experts and critics trying to figure out the possible reason behind the move. Rahane drove him past mid-off for two and cut him into the vacant off-side for four. But the action was at the other end. Broad pitched up, it moved away, and Dhoni touched it and headed towards the pavilion. The skipper had looked anything but comfortable during his brief stay. It was 123 for five.
Ravindra Jadeja walked in to understandable jeers and boos. And strangely, James Anderson was not introduced immediately. Neither did the pace bowler start warming up. Moeen continued from the other end, and to his credit bowled a tidy length.
Broad struck Jadeja on the pad and appealed vociferously — the ball probably going over. Jadeja flicked him through midwicket for three. The ball was still swinging around as the 50th over came to an end with the score on 127 for five. Just as the media centre was becoming vocal about the ploy of bowling Moeen, the spinner struck. The ball skidded in and hit Jadeja in front, and all his pretence of attempting to play did not impress Kumar Dharamasena. The finger went up.
Stuart Binny walked out at 128 for six, for the second successive innings into the face of severe crisis. He looked unfazed, lofting Moeen back over his head for four to get off the mark.
Rahane, on 26, has looked solid and secure so far but looks in increasing danger of running out of partners. One cannot expect the same heroics from Bhuvneshwar Kumar in these conditions. Much will depend on this pair as India come in after tea, to give this withering innings a semblance of respectability. The pendulum has swung in the second session and it is advantage England in a big way.
(Arunabha Senguptais a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry.He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)
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